The Day Pono Died

It’s a big no-no for Pono. And while it may not be as monumental as the day the music died, The Day Pono Died is here.

Neil Young must be sad.

Last week, The Pono streaming service officially died. Given how misconceived an idea the Pono Player was it’s hard to be surprised. Nevertheless, I find myself sad that the day Pono died is here.

I dig Neil Young both musically and politically. That said, The Death of Pono strikes me as something that could have gone differently.

I stand by my original criticism of the Pono Player. I still think the marketing Pono did with other music luminaries was poorly executed. But it didn’t take long for Mr. Young and company to realize that the business model for Pono was built on music rather than hardware.

And yet, the Pono store stayed offline for months—as Jay Z’s Tidal just kept coming. Sure, Tidal isn’t really much better off than Pono. But Pono literally stood still for almost three years. That’s not a business change you want to emulate.

Outside of the clumsy shape of the Pono device, the problem with Pono is that there was never anywhere good to take it. High-definition audio simply takes up too much bandwidth to stream reliably, most of the time. Add to that the fact that only a very small percentage of people hear the difference in fidelity and charging two to three times as much for “better sound” that you likely won’t notice is a business model in search of a minimum viable audience.

The Day Pono Died

Still, there was a time when Pono might have managed to pull this off. To management’s credit, the Pono player was simply not going to work and they knew it quickly. A fast transition to a store with just-slightly-more-expensive music had a chance—at the beginning of 2015.

And the streaming bandwidth issue will eventually work itself out. If you have an unlimited data plan it’s likely that sometime in 2019 5G networks will be able to service high-definition audio reliably.

Where were you the day Pono died? You were likely with me, streaming music through Google Play.

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